Private rental villas on islands like Phuket and Koh Samui offer guests a unique opportunity to simply relax and recharge, but with a choice of more active holiday pursuits right on your villa's doorstep, and a personal concierge to arrange trips and activities, you can also return home feeling a little fitter then when you left.
When you finally arrive at your chosen holiday villa after a hectic home and work schedule, most people just want to kick off their shoes, collapse on a sun bed, take regular dips in the private pool and eat themselves happy. And why not? But after a few days; once a relaxed routine is well established, thoughts may turn to action. With a relaxed mind, the body often craves a little healthy exercise, and although there's no need to go crazy (you are on holiday after all), a little exertion will ensure you head home in a positive frame of mind.
Here are some easy ways to add a little exercise to the schedule during a private villa vacation.
Walk the shores
The wonderful sandy beaches that grace Thailand's tropical islands are undeniably great to lie on, but they also provide the perfect excuse for a long walk. Beach walking is actually quite a strenuous (and therefore healthy) activity and depending on the size of the bay, a stroll along the sand can take anything from an hour to the best part of a day. Sunset is always a beautiful time for a waterside wander, and therefore especially wonderful on west coaches beaches, but make sure you are on the way back as it dips behind the horizon or might find yourself struggling in the dark.
On Koh samui, Big Buddha beach
, which fronts Bang Rak village is a poplar spot for a late afternoon stroll. The flat sand and dreamy views of the island's famous golden temple add to the walking pleasure. Over on Phuket, Layan Beach
on the north west coast is a beach ramblers favourite where you can walk along the sand to a small island and watch the sun set the sky alight on the tropical horizon.
A Day on the Greens
Phuket and Samui attract plenty of golfers every year with a choice of tropical courses that combine a challenging round with some of the best island views imaginable. Part-time golfers can rent equipment at most courses for a round, and there are also several driving ranges on Phuket and Samui for those that want to practice their swing before they hit the fairways. The tropical warmth means buggies a good idea, especially if you plan to complete 18 holes, and even then you will feel the work out more than in cooler climes.
On Phuket, the most famous courses include Blue Canyon Country Club, which was described by Tiger Woods as "one the best [courses] I have ever played on". Then there's Laguna Phuket Golf Club, which has recently enjoyed an upgrade and snakes through the beach side resort complex of the same name. On the island's east coast, Mission Hills Phuket is a world class18-hole course created by Nicklaus Design with dramatic sea views. Over on Koh Samui, the Santiburi Country Club is a celebrated cliffside championship course, home to an annual Asian Tour competition, the Queen's Cup, while for golfers with slightly less experience, the beautiful 9-hole course at Bophut Hills is perfect for an afternoon swing.
Thanks in part to the growth of competitive events such as triathlons and MTB races on Phuket and Koh Samui in recent years, road and mountain biking have also become popular sports for visitors and residents on both islands. A number of specialist shops now sell and rent bikes, and as long as you choose the route carefully, it's easy t enjoy a peaceful pedal through spectacular scenery.
On Phuket, the area around Laguna is a popular biking spot for its quiet flat roads. or you can rent a truck and drive your bike further north to Mai Khao beach where a leafy lanes weave around a series of small inland lakes. On Samui, the coconuts plantations behind the beachside town of Mae Nam offer a peaceful glimpse of rural island life and for cyclists in search of a challenge, some of the lanes climb into the hills where you will be rewarded with stunning coastal views.
On Phuket in particular, there are now several groups that run regular biking excursions in a variety of locations around the island, as well as companies offering bicycling tours to nearby natural wonders such as the Khao Sok National Park. On Samui, bicycle tours of the less developed rural areas in the south can also be arranged and offer a pleasant journey into the island's natural heritage.
Even in the world's busiest cities, yoga has become a daily part of many people's lives, and this is now reflected in the number of yoga centres and courses offered on Thailand's most popular islands. Whether you are a seasoned practitioner or beginner, a follower of Asgtanga, Hatha or Hot yoga, there will be a class or course to suit your stretching and breathing needs.
Koh Samui has long been developing a string reputation as a wellness destination, with unique options like the celebrated Tamarind Springs Spa in Lamai and the award-winning Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary in Laem Set setting standards for professional treatments and alternative approaches to health. This has also prompted a number of yoga centres to open. Absolute Yoga and Samahita Retreat are two of the best known yoga centres on the island, while the Yoga Garden in Bophut also offers regular classes and courses. On Phuket, Ganesha Yoga is a sanctuary in the island's south, while Sukko Cultural Spa and Wellness specialises in Ashtanga yoga, while the newly opened Yoga Republic near Bang Tao beach will include a special infrared heating system.
The demand for quality yoga also means the Thai islands now attract some of the world's top yoga teachers and villa guests can also arrange for classes and instruction by their own private pool or even right on the beach in front of their villa.
by MAX VEE